Christmas morning breakfast
Ever since last year I started a sort of “tradition” if you like: begin Christmas morning with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and something sweet. This year the “sweet” turned out to be these gorgeous biscuits. A friend of mine gave me some tasty cranberries and that sort of gave me the idea…
Cranberry and white chocolate cookies (adapted from a recipe from Feast by Nigella Lawson)
½ tsp baking powder
75g rolled oats (I used fine wholegrain and they turned out just fine)
125g soft usalted butter
75g dark or light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract (I didn’t have any this time so I guess it’s optional)
75g dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 180°C.Measure out the flour, baking powder, salt, and rolled oats into a bowl.
Put the butter and sugars into another owl and beat together until creamy (I used an electric mixer) – then beat in the egg and vanilla.
Beat in the flour, baking powder, salt and oat mixture and then fold in the cranberries, chopped pecans and white chocolate, chopped into small dice. Set the bowl of biscuit dough in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into a ball with your hands, and then place them on a lined or greased baking sheet and squish the dough balls down with a fork. You may need two baking sheets or be prepared to make these in two batches. (I needed 2 and a half actually).
Cook for 15 minutes, when ready, the cookies will be tinged a pale gold, but be too soft to lift immediately off the tray, so leave the tray on a cool surface and let them harden for about 5 minutes. Remove with a spatula or whatever to cool fully on a wire rack.
It’s amazing how, in the pre-Christmas rush, there are whole debates and polemics as to how long you need to cook a turkey for the Christmas lunch (turkey being the traditional choice in many Germanic countries). Coming as I do from a country where temperatures can range from anything in the vicinity of 38°C (give or take a few), the whole issue is rather pointless. Even more so, given that at the moment I don’t have such a large audience as to justify the sacrifice of such noble bird.
Nevertheless, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas for me without a traditional meal (if there is any one time when I like to make an effort with the food it is this one). So I got round it with these boneless chicken drumsticks. The great thing about them is that, as long as you keep the base of egg and breadcrumbs to hold it together, you can add pretty much anything to it. Traditional Christmas lunch in the UK is normally roast turkey with stuffing, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and a variety of sauces including: cranberry sauce, bread sauce and, of course, the gravy.
Boneless stuffed chicken with prune and mushroom stuffing
chicken drumsticks (one or two per person)
1 egg, beaten
sausage meat or one sausage per person without the skin
salt and pepper
string to hold everything together
Bone the legs.
For the filling:
Mix the breadcrumbs, egg, sausage meat, chopped mushrooms and chopped prunes together. Season with salt and pepper.
Fill the chicken legs and hold together with string. Place in a baking tray, season and sprinkle lightly with oil. Cook in a hot to moderate oven for 40 minutes, turning halfway through. Once cooked, cut the string off the chicken and slice carefully.
Arrange on a plate with some cranberry sauce.
So there you have it: bird with stuffing and vegetables for two!
Cranberry jam – adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast
350g caster sugar
Put a film of water in the bottom of a large saucepan and add the cranberries and sugar.
Stir patiently over a low heat to dissolve the sugar; this will take a little while.
Turn up the heat and boil the pan rapidly until setting point is reached, approximately 7 minutes. (Alternatively it will have reached a jam like consistency).
Pour the jam into a sterilized 350ml jar and seal immediately.
handful of Brussels sprouts per person
1 slice of pancetta or bacon per person cut into 1 cm cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
10 chestnuts per person boiled and peeled (see below) or 1 packet vacuum-packed chestnuts
60 ml Marsala wine (I had Cassis sherry handy so I used that instead)
Trim the bottoms off each of the sprouts, cutting a cross into each as you go. (This is applicable only if you’re cooking less than 100 sprouts, otherwise you’re spared). Then tip them into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook until tender (7 to 9 minutes or so).
Up to this point you can do this in advance. If this is the case, plunge the sprouts into a bowl of cold water as soon as you take them off the heat so that they don’t carry on cooking.
Drain them and set aside until you’re ready to finish them off.
Roast the potatoes and the chicken and only when everything is almost ready, finish the sprouts.
In a large saucepan, cook the bacon cubes in the oil until they’re bronzed and crisp, but not cooked to the point of having dried out. Add the butter and the chestnuts and, with a wooden spoon press on the chestnuts to break them up a little. When they’re warmed through, turn the heat up and throw in the Marsala, letting it bubble away, fusing with the bacon fat and chestnutty butter to form a syrup. Add the drained sprouts and turn well, giving a good grinding of pepper.
You shouldn’t need salt, given the bacon but taste to see.
If you, like me, can’t find vacuum-packed chestnuts in the supermarket, buy fresh ones and boil them with a bay leaf, some thyme branches and some orange or tangerine skin until the shell is soft. Play it by ear but it can take a bit over an hour to do so. I know it seems time-consuming but other than chucking the stuff in the pan, there’s hardly any work involved.
Perfect roast poatoes
2 or 3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut in half per person
2 or 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled and whole
goose or duck fat or, failing that, a mixture of olive oil and butter
sprigs of thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
zest of ½ lemon
zest of ½ orange
Parboil the potatoes in boiling, salted water for 10 minutes.
Drain and toss them until they’re fluffy.
Drizzle the oil or fat on a roasting tray.
Add the garlic cloves, whole, and the thyme sprigs.
Arrange the potatoes on top. Grate the lemon and orange zest on top.
Season with salt and pepper and toss them thoroughly.
Bake in a hot oven for 40-50 minutes but check them after 35 minutes.